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Spider-Man

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch / Neversoft
Media: GD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Even though this is a port of the PSX version of the game, I was hoping that the Dreamcast Spider-Man would be much more graphically precise. The PSX, after all, has its limits, and the fogging on the N64 version was downright shameful. While this version of the game definitely looks better than the others, especially when it comes to the bosses, the game still feels like a barely upgraded PSX game in terms of graphical beauty.

That's not to say it's an ugly game--it's not--but it never really struck me as pretty, and no scenes knocked me off my feet in terms of graphical splendour. That's a shame, because in a comic book world there should be something that makes you stand up and say 'wow!'. While the graphics are tight, they're more early Dreamcast than the current generation of visually solid games.

Sound, on the other hand, is very solid. While the music is the same quick-looping stuff that only picks up when you get into battles, the voice acting is top-notch (and Stan Lee is completely over the top), the sound effects are solid, and the inclusion of the Spidey theme song on the main menu almost broke me into giggles. The main character quips a lot as you play Spider-Man, and the quips themselves can change, which can make replaying an annoying segment that little bit easier to take.


Gameplay:

Whereas the graphics are simply a slightly improved version of the PSX game, the actual gameplay of Spider-Man for the Dreamcast is straight from the other two versions. That means the same core problem is still here--that damned camera--but with slightly tighter controls and sharper graphics, this is definitely the best version of the game yet.

The storyline of Spider-Man is straight from comic-book world, starting off with Spider-Man breaking in and stealing technology, even as Peter Parker watches along. There's something fishy going on from the get-go, and soon Spidey's webbing his way around New York, stopping bank heists, super-villains, and encountering his favoritest super-villain of all, Venom. Discovering the storyline is part of the draw of the game, so I'll leave the rest up to you.

The game itself consists of a variety of different levels, each making use of some of Spidey's inherent skills. Unlike all of the other Spider-Man based games, the Neversoft Spider-Man games finally give gamers what they've always wanted: the ability to climb buildings, sling webs, and in general be a sneaky spider instead of the straight fighting games that we generally had before.

And, for the most part, it works well. The levels are quite varied, from swinging across the rooftops to the inevitable boss fights to some segments that are reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid in terms of stealth. And while a great deal of time is spent on the roofs of New York, you're generally doing different things there--chasing Venom, trying not to get blown up, and so on.

Fighting is simple, and controlling Spider-Man as he crawls around is pretty easy too. There are some camera issues that will undoubtedly drive you mad when you first start playing, but they're managable, if not still frustrating. The controls also seem sharper than in the N64 version that I reviewed earlier. Spidey didn't cling to things as badly, making my life easier in boss fights, and the various commands you need to execute to use the webbing were sharper on the Dreamcast controller. But the core gameplay is the same.

To be honest, the game still feels a little detached--as fun as it is, there's a feeling of gimmickness in some of the levels, like the developers had a good idea and threw it in 'because they could'. It's not the sort of thing that most people would even care about, but it did strike me as hurting the general cohesiveness of the game.


Difficulty:

You can choose your difficulty level at the beginning of the game, and there's inevitably one that will appeal to you. The three 'basic' skill levels--Easy, Normal, and Hard--are intended for the adults, who want to experience the whole game but may want more (or less) of a challenge. There's also a Kid's Mode, which simplifies the controls and the levels to make them more accessible for the young ones. Some of the stealth parts are tricky, especially the hostage situations, but the game never sets you back too far from where you were so you can always try again without too much fuss. Good thing--some of the segments in the game are downright annoying.

Game Mechanics:

Controls in Spider-Man are complex. Perhaps too complex, in fact, especially when you get to all of the moves that are possible with the webbing. I had to keep the instruction book around so I could look up what I had to press to do the fists, or the shield, or whatever. It's not insurmountable, but it does have a bit of a learning curve. The actual controlling of Spidey, however, is even tighter in this version than it was in the N64 one.

The camera, though . . . argh. The camera still does its craziness, changing its views without changing your controls, making the buttons absolutely crazy. This generally happens when you 'crawl' through a door via the ceiling, and the room is oriented differently from the room you were just in. It's frustrating, but you can stop it by letting go of the thumb-pad. The game will reset the camera to behind Spidey, and the controls will regain their sanity. It's still frustrating, especially in the heat of battle, but it's manageable.

It doesn't look much better than the PSX or N64 versions, and it certainly plays the same, but Spider-Man for the Dreamcast is the definitive version of this web-slinging action game. If you're a fan of the genre, and you don't have either of the other versions, you should definitely check it out--there's quite a bit of fun to be had here, even with the sometimes wonky controls. Those who already own another version know what's in here, and won't find any real reason to pick up the DC version; those who aren't into this type of game or comic books should definitely give it a rent to see how it hits them. While it's not perfect in its execution, Spider-Man gives us more of a taste of the world of Spidey than any game before it.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

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